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Disgruntled Island County deputies hit the picket line

A decision that could lead to the loss of two deputies has stirred protest from the Island County Deputy Sheriff's Guild, whose members will take to the picket line Monday.

"We've never done anything like this before," guild spokesman Detective Ed Wallace said of the "informational" picketing effort.

"We're hoping the public will come out," he added.

In an announcement last Monday, Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said she no longer supported Sheriff Mark Brown's prescribed budget cuts.

The commissioners had assigned the sheriff to trim 5 percent of his $5 million budget. Brown said he could avoid losing deputies by laying off a records clerk as well as Dave Hollet, the director of Emergency Management. Hollet would be replaced by a lieutenant in the sheriff's office.

Commissioners John Dean and Helen Price Johnson voiced their approval to lay off Hollet a couple of weeks ago, and Brown moved forward with his plan. Commissioner Angie Homola was against it.

However, after hearing arguments from Hollett and Emergency Management staff that law enforcement officials in the sheriff's office don't have the training to do the job, Price Johnson said she no longer backed Brown's proposal. That left the commissioners informally 2-1 in favor of keeping Hollet, with Dean still in support of the sheriff.

Now, two deputies could stand to lose their jobs.

"We're hoping the commissioners will see the support the public has for us and that they do the right thing and fund us," Wallace said. "We're not asking for additional funds, we want to hold on to what we have."

In a press release, Wallace said the picket is not a strike. By law the deputies cannot strike and would never put the community at risk by doing so, he said. The picket is to inform the public of their situation and seek help.

He added that the loss of two deputies would equate to a total loss of 12 percent of the department's commissioned work force over the past two years.

"While this may not seem like a large number, in comparison if the Seattle Police Department had to cut by the same number they would have to lay off approximately 158 commissioned officers," he wrote.

Undersheriff Kelly Mauck said he supports the guild's move to the picket line, as long as their efforts are focused on convincing the commissioners that public saftey is the top priority.

"I don't know whether they'll listen. I hope they would," he said.

The picket is scheduled for 8 a.m. along Sixth Street in Coupeville, Dec. 28.

A final public hearing on the budget will be held that same day at 2:15 p.m. in the Board of County Commissioners Hearing Room, located at 1 NE Sixth St. in Coupeville.

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